I have been very fortunate to visit many of the world’s magnificent ancient sites — from the balanced rock display of England’s Avebury, to the classical Parthenon in Athens. Now ‘fess up folks…while surrounded by massive ruins, you can’t help but think about owning your own tiny piece of history. A teeny little rock from Rome’s massive Coliseum would never be missed, right? Luckily, our conscience intervenes…or not!
“Hadrian’s Wall”, an intelligent, thought provoking play by Dani Vetere, ably directed by Stephen Cedars, takes this basic premise to a whole new level while unearthing (no pun intended) a labyrinth of issues. As the tagline for “Hadrian’s Wall” teasingly informs us, “If you dig for a living, you’re bound to have some buried secrets.”
Why would a young, brilliant female anthropologist, en route to a ground breaking career (again, no pun intended), steal an invaluable artifact from Scotland’s Hadrian’s Wall while on a scholarly excavation? Or did she? Why would she then spend the next 15 years as a recluse in her Village apartment while accused of this crime? Why does she contribute so little to her defense? Why is her now married ex-lover not only her lawyer, but her only contact with the outside world?
What transformed her into such a misanthrope residing in the “minutia of a very small kingdom?” With no telephone, computer, TV…not a sign of the techno world we all inhabit…well, hell, what has she been doing for the past 15 years? I doubt a flippant response such as “taking a lot of showers” is the correct answer. Why does she keep a dinosaur head as one of her few possessions? Who exactly is the dinosaur here? Will anything…or anyone…draw her out of her self-created cave?
But ultimately the question that applies, in a quite unexpected context, has a double meaning. And so it is unknowingly repeated twice by two different characters. Are there really “more reasons to leave then stay”? These questions, and much more, make for an exceptionally thinking, perplexing drama, full of rapid dialogue, intellectual discourse, and some very clever chatter. I never thought the world of academia could be so suspenseful, and at times, quite funny.
But take heed, there is important scholarship at stake in the context of this drama, and more often then not, especially in the study of the ancient world, there are more questions then answers. The past is always with us, and does not always contribute to a bright future. The author chose some perfect metaphors in which to explore some interesting modern dilemmas. Sometimes there are solutions to problems…sometimes not.
This is an extremely well drawn, carefully crafted three character story with stellar performances from all three cast members. The plot is rich with possibilities while the action is contained in the dazzling dialogue delivered by these talented actors. It is obvious that the writer, Dani Vetere, and the director, Stephen Cedars, have worked well together. You quickly realize this is a well coordinated balancing act, all three character parts must create the whole, and their hard work is apparent on stage.
The central character, Ramona, is knowingly portrayed by Laura Siner with spot on delivery. She is a smug bundle of nerves, and we soon learn she’s got some damn good reasons for some anxious angst. Her lawyer and former lover, David, played by Eric Rolland seems to be her lifeline to the world she deliberately elected to leave.
Now here in lies the rub…when a young graduate student (Amy) played by Rebecca White delivers some library books to Ramona’s apartment, you know the moment she walks in the plot takes a twist, and there may very well be some “love among the ruins.” Ok, this time, pun definitely intended! And now a whole new set of questions are posed.
It’s quite refreshing to experience a good story in which the action is advanced with compelling dialogue. You hang on every line. I urge you to catch this intriguingly smart drama, and to also check out the other plays, many running downtown, contributing to this year’s FringeNYC festival.WHAT: “Hadrian’s Wall” by Dani Vetere WHERE: Connelly Theater, 220 East 4th Street, NYC WHEN: August 13th @ 7PM; August 16th @ 5:15PM; August 19th @8:30PM TICKETS: $15 and $18 at the door
Contributed by: Joanne Theodorou